Christie’s Auction House announced on Monday morning that an Andy Warhol silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe will go up for auction in May, and is estimated to sell for a cool $200 million. If the piece does go for that price, it will beat the auction record for the most expensive 20th-century artwork, which was set in 2013 when another one of Warhol’s works, “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster),” sold for $104.5 million.
“Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is a 1964 work of the Hollywood star, based on her promotional poster for the 1953 film, Niagara. The work was part of Warhol’s “Shot Marilyn” series, made up of five colorful silk screens, which got its name after performance artist Dorothy Podber, reportedly walked into the artist’s studio, saw the works, and asked Warhol if she could shoot them. According to the Wall Street Journal, Warhol obliged, thinking Podber would photograph the pieces. Instead, she took out a pistol, and shot a hole through four of the Marilyn canvases. “Sage Blue Marilyn” remained unharmed.
The work comes to Christie’s from the Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation Zurich which acquired it from the late Condé Nast honcho Si Newhouse some forty years ago. Thomas, a notable dealer and collector in the modern and impressionist art scene, helped catalog and later sell many of Warhol’s work until his death in 1993. His sister, Doris, then took over running the gallery until her death last year. The money from the painting’s sale will go to the siblings’ eponymous foundation, which supports health care and education programs for kids. According to the New York Times, this would potentially make the sale of “Blue Marilyn” the highest-grossing philanthropic auction since 2018, when pieces from Peggy and David Rockefeller’s private collection sold for a total of $833 million, a sum that was divided between multiple charities.
Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman for 20th and 21st century art, spoke in a statement about “Sage Blue Marilyn,” calling it “one of the most iconic paintings of all time,” and “the most significant 20th-century painting to come to auction in a generation.”
“This painting symbolizes everything that’s relevant to us about the 20th century—you can see all its beauty and tragedy in her face,” Rotter said. “Whenever a painting like this comes to market, it changes the market, and not just for Warhol.”